Forcing Nationalism On Fans Isn’t A Good Look, Kohli

November 14, 2018

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Virat Kohli, for all of his batting mastery in recent years, displayed a real, jarring lack of self-awareness last week.

While you’d normally assume this was related to some kind of on-pitch struggles, he actually came under scrutiny for comments made in a video released on his online app when celebrating his 30th birthday.

In response to an Indian fan voicing his opinion about Kohli’s batting inferiority in comparison to the English and Australian batsmen, the Indian captain lashed out, “I don’t think you should live in India,” he said. “Why are you living in our country and loving other countries?”

Except that the world, and India, is not restricted by government borders anymore; you cannot ignore the diversity of the real world. There are foreigners who live in India, and there are Indians in every corner of the world.

His rash statements question the very concept of national identity, whether intentional or not. If living in India makes you Indian, then what does that make of all those around the world? And if you’re an Indian living in India, does that force you to display faux passion for your country alone?

The fan is entitled to his freedom of speech, but you cannot force nationalism on him. And sport, while linked to nationalistic pride in these parts, should not be that way.

Celebrities live in an insulated world dominated by airports, hotels and stadiums. It’s an airtight bubble from which it is tough to gain real-world perspective from. But that is their challenge; if it’s an impossible one, they’d be better suited to avoiding such statements altogether.

They will receive unnecessary flak at times for outlandish comments, but it is the by-product of their profession.

By alienating fans, you are also setting a poor example for the aspiring children who adore you.

For a national icon like Kohli, with plenty of fans from outside of India, it was a hypocritical and narcissistic statement to make.

He is flying the Indian flag high, but he is not the only one, and neither is he Captain India. It’s a lesson he seems to have heeded in his later tweet.

I may be a huge fan of his batting, and this is a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, but the criticism is deserved. If anything, it highlights the dangers of voicing out opinions on sensitive matters on social media. As India’s captain and a leader at his peak, he will be best served by sticking towards doing the country proud on the turf.

In other news

  • Harmanpreet Kaur is whacking women’s cricket into unassuming houses. As the women’s World T20 kicked off in Providence, it was in need of some impetus to get the tournament going. Starting slowly, having scored five in 12 balls, the Harmonster accelerated with abandon, eventually finishing on an astonishing 103 of 51 balls. Adorned with eight sixes, she is no stranger to the big stage. Her 171* in last year’s World Cup semi-final was stunning in its audacity, and this was as good a follow-up. Indian women’s cricket is flourishing, and Harmanpreet is a symbol of that progress, creating their own niche in a sport dominated by men. The tournament and the game could do with some more hard Harmanator hitting
  • The World Cup is on the horizon, but Australia continue to find difficulties in having the right balance in the ODI side. The elephant in the room remains the absences of Steve Smith and David Warner, suspended after the ball-tampering controversy earlier in the year. Their absence has revealed a brittle top-order, and perhaps a muddled strategy. Chris Lynn and Aaron Finch are a tad too aggressive at the top to provide consistency at the start. Beyond them, the middle-order just lacks presence and reassurance. They will need more time together, and the India series will be another good test. But the return of Smith and Warner in March will further compound matters with the World Cup in late May. Coach Justin Langer and captain Finch have plenty to think about
  • Farewell, Rangana Herath. A fighter, a scrapper and a common man above all, the left-arm spinner bowed out with 433 wickets from 93 Tests. It’s the eight most wickets in history, but he’s the highest left-arm wicket-taker ever. All this while working at his day job at a bank. Herath was indefatigable through his career, and what makes it impressive that he was the Tony Lock to Muttiah Muralitharan’s Jim Laker, without the successful partnership. A sidekick to Murali for a long time, despite making his debut in 1999, Herath toiled away in the background for eternity, seemingly. But after his fellow spinner’s retirement in 2010, he seamlessly assumed the mantle of the spinner’s role for Sri Lanka. His longevity is an inspiration, his fighting spirit something to be marveled. It was unfortunate that he went out on his stomach after being run out, but it summed up his character. Herath was all class, and the game will be poorer without him
  • Finally, here’s a word of acknowledgement for Mushfique Rahim’s excellent 219* against Zimbabwe (and Mominul Haque’s 161), rescuing Bangladesh from 26-3 to take them to 522-7d and a position of strength

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Author: Rahul Warrier

Rahul is a freelance football writer, having delved into writing in 2015. Based in Singapore, he is a senior writer at These Football Times. His work has also been featured on FourFourTwo, Yahoo Sport, IBWM and MEN among others. He's a football fan, but a cricket enthusiast first.

Twitter @rahulw_

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